Africa Contact Partnership Seminar 2013: Fundraising

 “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination,” Oscar Wilde once said.  Ensuring organisational financial security through more imaginative ways of fundraising was one of the important subjects that was discussed at Africa Contact’s Partnership Seminar, held in Johannesburg in April 2013.

”When we become too dependent on one source of income we become dependent on the donor and loose our freedom,” as Africa Contact’s Marie Villumsen put it. ”This goes for Africa Contact as well as for our partners. All development aid is political.”

In his presentation on funding through the EU-system, Africa Contact’s Bo Karlsen presented one such potential alternative source of income – funding through the EU system.

“We should be able to get EU-funding,” said Karlsen. “The EU is the biggest donor in the world, its development strategies gives room for relatively progressive projects and the EU does not follow the same GNI limits as Danish International Development Agency, Danida.”

Unlike many national development organisations, such as Danida, the EU has different strategies for each country. And unlike applying from Danida, where one theoretically can apply (but does not necessarily receive funding for) any project following the Danish Strategy for Civil Society, the EU makes a “call” – a combination of a national and thematic strategy – for projects in certain countries at certain times which NGO’s can then apply for.

“It is more complex to work with the EU-system, however,” says Bo Karlsen, “as there is always another document you have to include. It is also more rigid, as small mistakes will mean that the application will be disregarded, unlike our donor CISU in Denmark, who are more flexible.”

There is also an added element of partner responsibility in EU-projects compared to national projects, says Karlsen, as the African partners are ultimately responsible for the EU-funded projects, although there is more competition and subsequently a lower success rate.

To apply for EU-funding, one has to be registered in PADOR, the EU’s online registration for grant’s applicants (see guidelines here). If possible, it is a good idea to prepare a call beforehand so that one is ready when the call comes, or even to have a standard call ready as most calls are similar in form. The calls come with an invitation to so-called “sharing sessions”. It is generally a good idea to attend these.

“We should not only look at international funding and donor support,” Wellington Zindove from the Youth Forum Zimbabwe said in his presentation, “but also at domestic sources of support.”

In domestic as well as in international support it is important to show the donor that your organisation is doing important work and will make a difference, says Zindove. “Document this, for instance through press coverage. People prefer to donate to organisations they have heard of.”

This domestic support can be financial but also in the form of resource mobilisation, local goods and services. More specifically this support can come through public money, sponsored entertainment such as concerts, sports events and parties, asking business for money or other resources, by selling merchandise, by renting out ones offices as a conference room, selling photocopies, and through membership fees.

Nomcebo Myeni from the Swaziland National Ex-Mineworkers Association (SNEMA), a rural-based organisation with over 1000 members, gave a presentation on how her organisation had introduced membership fees.

“We encourage ex-miners to become members of the organisation,” Myeni says. “We have activists recruiting paying members, we have the ex-miners day where we reach active members through our branch structures, and our new project includes ambassadors going door to door, telling people about SNEMA and thereby making the organisation visible.”

Apart from the 36 Rand that each paying member pays annually, and which is collected by the organisation’s treasurer, the membership fee also gives each member a sense of belonging, says Myeni. “SNEMA asks people to join because we want a strong movement with a strong voice to fight our common hardships.”

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